At the risk of sounding corny, I sensed something was missing from Alex Box. I wasn't expecting a beehive of activity in early August with baseball season still months away. But in the wake of the untimely death of Wally Pontiff, it was as though something was missing. It was an intangible factor that made me wonder if there could ever be another baseball game played at LSU that would hold any significance.
Maybe that's because Wally Pontiff was one of those student-athletes who left you with the impression that if for some reason he was never able to play another baseball game, he would still be an overwhelming success in life. Unfortunately for family, friends and fans of LSU baseball, we must now face a future without Pontiff in either regard.
The life of Wallace Sebastian Pontiff Jr. ended sometime in the early morning hours of July 24 at his parents' house in Metairie, and news of his passing spread to Baton Rouge before noon. I was representing Tiger Rag at the Louisiana High School Coaches Association convention when a co-worker reached me by cell phone with the bad news. A stream of people approached me at our Tiger Rag booth and asked with disbelief if the story was true. It never got an easier each time I had to confirm the information.
But I know the sorrow I felt paled in comparison to what the Pontiff family is going through. Hopefully, they can take some solace in learning the impact their eldest son had on the lives he touched.
My first stop at Alex Box this day was to see the makeshift memorial erected to honor Pontiff on the south wall of the baseball players' locker room. Most of the flowers and wreaths left since July 24 had withered, but a number of placards and mementos stayed true. By their sheer numbers, they provided testament to the influence Wally had on LSU followers.
I was the only person in the baseball facility for the 15 minutes I roamed around taking pictures on an overcast day. Pulling away from the third-base side driveway, I wondered for a second if it had already reached the point where people had begun to move on following Pontiff's death.
But as I drove away, heading down Skip Bertman Drive toward Nicholson, I noticed three student-aged supporters making their way toward the memorial display. The two young men respectfully removed their caps, and the young woman accompanying them brought a hand to her face – presumably to weep.
They have yet to move on. Perhaps it will be a while before we all can.
Stay off the Grass - If you haven't taken a drive through the LSU campus lately, you may want to do so before planning your tailgating parties for the 2002 season. Those of you who have traditionally parked on grass areas under the oaks will have to make other plans.
Barriers have been put in place in various parts of campus that will not permit vehicles to park on or beyond the sidewalks. Most notably, the "Enchanted Forest" area near the Greek Theatre and the Pentagon Dormitories is off limits. The uphill drive on the south side of Graham Hall is also obstructed, as are the areas immediately in front of Long Field House and the Music and Dramatic Arts Building.
More barriers are expected to go up before LSU's home opener against The Citadel on Sept. 7 in an attempt to preserve the green areas of campus, and more fans will be looking for a new place to park. A new lot has been built across from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine on Skip Bertman Drive. A sidewalk has been laid from this lot to the football practice facility, where a crosswalk will put fans on the same side of the street as Alex Box Stadium.
I think the goal of LSU administration is an admirable one. Every step possible should be taken to preserve the beauty of the LSU campus, one of the most scenic in the nation.
But in advance of taking those steps, there should have been forethought into how they would affect tailgating and other traditions. At least the high-profile RV owners were given advance notice of their relocation from the South Stadium Drive lot and a reasonable alternative – Touchdown Village.
Whether or not these RVs should have been moved for shuttle buses is the subject for another editorial.
In a few years, the demolition of Alex Box Stadium and construction of a new baseball/softball facility will create ample parking for football games. But in the meantime, traveling fans will be forced to fight over a dwindling number of parking spots because the lack of foresight before the most recent expansion of Tiger Stadium.